LC in History: Evaluations from the Grapevine

Dr Clifton W. Potter ~ LC History Professor

          When I was a student at Lynchburg College, there was no system for evaluating the performance of our professors.

          New students very quickly—usually during first-year orientation—tapped into what we called “the grapevine.” Our group leaders, who were all upperclassmen, checked our printed schedules and helped each one of us switch sections to avoid certain professors. Each one of us then passed this same information on to the classes behind us.

           I was a group leader my sophomore, junior and senior years and by the time I graduated, I possessed a wealth of data which I shared with my friends.

          This was a form of faculty evaluation, although it was not very scientific. It was one of the few options we had at the time.

          Luckily there were other ways of letting the senior members of the administration know that some professors were not fulfilling the terms of their contracts.

          One professor was so verbally abusive that every student in all four of his sections dropped him from their schedules, so he had a total enrollment of zero. He never taught another class at LC, but my favorite evaluation story involved a tape recorder, or to be more correct, 26 of them.

          One morning before class began with one of my favorite professors, a friend who sat next to me asked if I had a tape recorder. I replied, yes, and he asked if he might borrow it for one day. I had received a small unit for Christmas and lent it to him, without asking why he needed it.  I trusted him and knew he would take good care of it. I dropped it by his dorm room, and he returned it to me the next day in class with a full explanation of how he used it.

        We were both taking a three-hour course required for first-years. I had a good professor who taught a lively section, but my friend was stuck with a teacher who was bored with the class.

          He never actually taught it; instead every day an upperclassman brought a tape recorder and after starting it, departed. The professor had pre-recorded all the lectures, and the students were expected to take notes and sign a roll sheet before leaving. Needless to say, there was no opportunity to ask questions. The same upperclassman collected the large tape recorder and the roll sheet.

          Then one day, the dean of the college received an anonymous letter describing what was happening in Hopwood 14 at a certain hour every Tuesday and Thursday. He immediately crossed the campus, and when he opened the classroom door, he saw 25 small recorders copying what the large recorder was spewing. The following year that professor was teaching elsewhere.

          You have the opportunity to go online and evaluate each of your professors—do it now.  Frankly, I prefer the old-fashioned way—in class with pencil and paper. Participation was close to 100 percent; now it hovers around 30 percent.

          Remember if you walk into a class one day and a pre-recorded lecture begins pontificating, you have nobody to blame but yourself.